The 2021 Montana Capitol Tracker, a new digital guide from Montana Free Press, aims to help Montanans make sense of the business being conducted on their behalf during this year’s legislative session by presenting the quantifiable aspects of the Montana Legislature in an easy-to-use searchable interface.

The guide compiles information about lawmakers, bills and the legislative process, along with contextual information including the election results that brought each of the state’s 50 senators and 100 representatives into office. The Capitol Tracker also points readers to the in-depth legislative coverage being produced by MTFP’s five-reporter newsroom — already more than 50 stories a bit more than three weeks into the 90-day legislative session.

The Capitol Tracker will be updated daily with information sourced from the Montana Legislature’s official bill-tracking system, the Legislative Automated Workflow System, or LAWS. LAWS data is combined with information culled from a variety of other sources, including legislative records and the Montana Secretary of State’s election result database. Some of the material included in the guide, such as bill legal notes, isn’t accessible to the public without making records requests to legislative staff.

MTFP welcomes feedback and suggestions on the Capitol Tracker guide, which will be expanded with additional features over the course of the session.

Montana Free Press is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit newsroom that aims to provide Montanans with in-depth, nonpartisan news coverage.

Web design, data wrangling and other reporting for this guide was done by MTFP data reporter Eric Dietrich. Contact edietrich@montanafreepress.org with bug reports, questions or suggestions.

The digital guide is available at: montanafreepress.org/capitol-tracker.

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Eric Dietrich is a journalist and data designer and the founder of the Long Streets economic reporting project. His reporting focuses broadly on Montana’s governance and economic opportunity, with particular focus on the state budget and tax policy. He also contributes data reporting across the MTFP newsroom. Before joining the MTFP staff in 2019, he worked for the Great Falls Tribune, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and Solutions Journalism Network and also earned an engineering degree from Montana State University. Contact Eric at edietrich@montanafreepress.org, 406-465-3386 ext. 2, and follow him on Twitter.